“Memories are bullets. Some whiz by and only spook you. Others tear you open and leave you in pieces.”
~ Richard Kadrey, Kill the Dead
Wednesday, April 10, was National Sibling Day. It is mostly an internet holiday designed to honor the sibling relationship.
Wanting to celebrate the bond that I had with my late sister, and the one that I still have with my brother, I searched through old photographs of the three of us together to post on Instagram. I found one from around the early eighties. My family had moved to Omaha, Nebraska for about six months to be with my father, who was on a company project in the cornhusker state.
The picture was of the three of us standing in front of the fireplace. Off to the corner, in front of the bar adjacent to the fireplace, sat my friend, Hope (name has been changed to protect her identity). I was a bit surprised that the photographer, presumably my mother, would include Hope in the picture with us three siblings, but then I was hit with a particular memory about Hope that made whatever my mother’s reasons were make perfect sense.
Hope was always at my house. She always insisted to come over every day after school, and she even wanted to have sleepovers at my house every weekend. I had never had a sleepover before, and I had thought it was weird, but I finally acquiesced to her constant begging, and I finally asked my parents if I could have a sleepover and let Hope stay at our house. I remember my mother was not too keen on the idea, but Hope was so insistent, and her parents agreed without so much as blinking an eye.
The plan was for Hope to come over Friday night and to stay until Sunday because her parents were going to take advantage of the fact that Hope would not be home for the weekend, and they had planned to go to Des Moines for the weekend.
Friday night came. My mother had laid out blankets, and Hope was to sleep next to me on the floor. My mother had made sure we were all settled before she turned off the lights and closed the door. I was just about to fall asleep when Hope whispered, “Hey, are you still awake?”
“I’m just about to fall asleep. You should sleep too before my parents get mad,” I said.
“I want you to do something first. It helps me fall asleep,” she answered.
“What is it? I asked.
“Get underneath the blankets with me,” she said. “And I want you to put your hands down my underwear.”
Innocently, I asked her why. I told her it was gross to touch someone else’s private parts. She then said that she wanted to put her hands down my underwear. “It will make you feel good,” she smiled. I refused and said no. She shrugged when I said no, but she said that I still needed to make her feel good before she could sleep.
I was just about to touch her down there when my mom suddenly knocked on the door. I jumped out from underneath her blanket and hid under my own. My mom opened the door but did not turn on the lights. I yelled out that we were fine, and that we were about to go to sleep. I was afraid that she would come in and see that Hope was naked from the waist down. But she closed the door and walked away, turning off the hallway light before she went into her own room and closed the door.
My mom had broken whatever spell had come over the room, and Hope didn’t ask me again to touch her. The next morning, I became very ill with a fever, and my parents had called Hope’s parents to come pick her up. Her parents were not happy that their weekend plans were cut short. My friendship with Hope had faded after that.
Now, looking back almost forty-years later and recalling the events of that night, I can only surmise that Hope was being sexually abused by her father or even her mother. I never told my mother what happened that night, until recently. I asked her what made her come into the room that night, and she said she didn’t know, but that she just felt strangely that night. I wish I had said something back then to my mom. I feel sick knowing that I could have maybe saved her. But I was just a kid myself, younger than my daughter is now. I told my daughter this story and I emphasized that I hoped that she would always tell me everything, even if it was uncomfortable.